Proper window safety is crucial for homes with young children

kid looking out windowIt was reported yesterday that a toddler in Lowell fell out of a second-story window and had to be rushed to Children’s Hospital Boston for emergency care. Falls from windows are very dangerous for toddlers and small children, and as the weather gets warmer the number cases involving kids tumbling through windows that are only screened in are expected to rise.

In this installment of her monthly injury prevention column Lois Lee, MD, MPH of Children’s Emergency Department Injury Prevention Program, discusses the dangers of leaving windows open in homes with small children.

Lois Lee, MD, MPH
Lois Lee, MD, MPH

As the hot weather approaches, there is yet another preventable injury that I know we will see in Boston this summer—a small child falling from a window or a deck.  Children can be severely injured and can even die from falling out of a window on a second story or higher.  They can break their bones, damage their internal organs or sustain severe bleeding in the brain.

Falls are the leading cause of injury for children 5 years and younger. When the weather gets hot, families need to open the window, especially in homes without air conditioning.  But window screens DO NOT keep children from falling out of the windows. The good news is—window falls ARE preventable.

Here are some safety tips from the Boston Health Commission’s, “Kid’s Can’t Fly” brochure.

1.  Lock all unopened windows and doors.

2.  Keep furniture or anything a child can climb on away from windows. 

3.  Open windows from the top, not the bottom.

4.  Install child safety window guards if you have children under 7 years-old in the home.

5.  Be sure children are always supervised.

Window guards are an important part of preventing window fall injuries. They are aluminum or steel bars that installed on the bottom half of a window.  They can withstand up to 150 pounds of pressure—so a child pushing their hardest against a window guard still won’t fall through if it is properly installed. When purchasing window guards, parents may want to keep in mind that operable window guards have an emergency release mechanism so the window can still be used to escape in the event of a fire. Fixed window guards can not be quickly removed in an emergency. 

Some areas have programs to provide window guards for those in need. In the city of Boston you can contact the Boston Public Health Commission, Injury Prevention Program at 617-534-5197 (injuryprevention@bphc.org).